McClellan: Has the tea party already won?

No matter how the latest D.C. follies end, one thing’s clear:

The tea party’s won.

Sure, many point out that the Congressional tea partiers — whether it’s Utah’s Mike Lee or Texas’ Ted Cruz, or the 40 Partiers in the House, including our Republican contingent — created this sad joke on the American people. Even sadder is that these Congressmen represent only 18 percent of the American population, as most of the self-identified tea partiers in Congress represent largely rural districts. Yet for the last few weeks, they’ve driven the country’s agenda.

And as the New York Times recently pointed out, right wing moneymen and tea partiers began plotting the Defund Obamacare or Else campaign in the weeks after the President’s inauguration.

And it’s clear that the tea partiers refused to negotiate for months, since March, on the budget.

And it’s clear that in the last days since the shutdown began, they’ve been scrambling to save face, with some of the more public faces, like Cruz, going into hiding as the adults in Congress — the handful in both parties — try to make some last-minute deal.

So in the short term, the tea partiers have taken it on the chin. And rightfully so. They are fact-challenged, too often demagogic in their behavior. They deny the reality of a prolonged shutdown and the even worse consequences of the debt ceiling left unraised. Their echo-chamber reality is embraced by a smaller but still loud portion of the American electorate, ginned up by the equally fact-challenged right wing media (latest example — Fox News “reporting” that Obama personally paid to keep a Muslim Cultural Center open, a story put out by a satirical news site, a fictitious story Fox embraced because, well, it sounded good).

But in the long term, the partiers might get what they want.

Here’s why:

These guys and gals in Congress came there with the belief that the government doesn’t work, that you can’t trust the government.

And their actions ensure that the rest of America will feel the same way.

By the partiers’ stubbornness, they’ve succeeded in creating what they want: proof of a dysfunctional government.

Of course, they create it, just as they create instability they bemoan in our economy.

That’s right. They wailed for months that Obama’s economic policies create instability in our economy, that what consumers and businesses want is more certainty in government policies. They want a budget but then refuse to negotiate on one, “proving” that the government can’t even create one, leaving us lurching from one budget crisis to the next. Which is just what they partiers want.

So what do they do? Create the very instability they bemoan. By engaging in debt ceiling chicken in 2011, they actually slowed the economy and downgraded our credit rating. In the current concocted crisis, the damage could be even worse.

But in doing so, the make sure that our government is anything but stable. And then cry about that.

It’s a neat trick, one that I hope they aren’t doing purposely: Intentionally creating doubt and suspicion in our government so that they exploit that for their own narrow, fringe interests.

So, maybe, the tea partiers win. The rest of us won’t be so lucky.

Photo: Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, speaks at a rally in front of the WWII Memorial Sunday, Oct. 13, 2013 in Washington as Senate leaders have taken the helm in the search for a deal to end the partial government shutdown and avert a federal default. The memorial has been closed due to the government shutdown. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)